Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Paper or Plastic?

I bought an Amazon Kindle. I was curious but not inclined to own one until a couple of the neighborhood book club members discussed their advantages. I was less impressed by the lower cost of books (more on that later) than I was the thought that I could acquire books that have become hard-to-find in most stores. Plus, it's ideal for our book club selections that I have no desire to keep in paper format. Not to mention the free and near-free classics (although I already have nice volumes of my favorite classics).

As for cost, I belong to Book of the Month Club, The Mystery Guild, and Science Fiction Book Club. I can get popular new hard-bound books for the price of a trade paperback, and I've even beat the Kindle e-book price on a couple of recent purchases. Plus, these book clubs occasionally issue special editions that combine series novels into a single volume and/or replicate the original printing of a much-loved classic.

Okay -- so I've read only a couple of books on my Kindle. One a reference book and one a novel (our most recent book club selection). I rather miss the ability to flip the pages back to review something I've already read. I'm still trying out the bookmark and highlight features. I can't say that it's an improvement over a regular book. For now, it's a novelty and sort of fun.

But check this out. I have no idea how I came to possess this book. I suspect it's something my father picked up secondhand.

Yes...copyright 1941. It's a fabulous story about a young married couple who venture into Nazi Germany as amateur spies just before Germany invaded Poland and England joined the fight. It was made into a 1943 movie starring Fred MacMurry, Joan Crawford, and Basil Rathbone.

Frankly, I can't see Joan Crawford as Frances, and the couple was English, not American, and they weren't on their honeymoon. But as we all know, Hollywood never lets the facts get in the way of mangling a perfectly good story.

Anyway, here's the best part. Check out the notations inside the cover:

I'm not exactly sure what "Summerfield" was, but "Lipman Wolfe's" was a department store in downtown Portland (now long gone). Cameron's Book Store was one of my father's lunch-time prowls when he worked at City Hall (thus the suspected origin of the book on my shelves).

These notations record a fascinating history for this volume. Then there is the heavy-weight stock of the pages. This book was popular enough to produce a movie, so it makes one wonder how many other people held the book that was in my hands. What did they think of it? Were they reading it during the war, with no knowledge of its eventual outcome? Or enjoying it after the fact, well aware of world events that would occur after the final pages?

Digital books won't have histories like the above. They can't be autographed by the author. They can't be inscribed when given as a gift or for a special event. And what happens when the technology changes? We're still reading Chaucer and Shakespeare in printed form, but few of us listen to 8-track audio tapes. How attractive is a walnut-paneled library empty of books except for a lonely e-reader?

I'll have fun with my Kindle, but I don't know that it will really replace books. My bursting bookshelves are full of recollections of well-told tales, and the promise of new worlds and adventures to capture my imagination.

But as I heard at last summer's Willamette Writers Conference -- it's still a story. Only the delivery has changed.


wilsonc said...

I like my Kindle precisely because I don't want to keep or store many of the books I read. It won't replace me buying an autographed copy, old edition or exceptionally wonderful story in hardback. I did get notification this week that they have com out with page numbers fro the Kindle and will be downloading them in a few days, so it might pay to keep your wireless turned on for a bit.

Promise said...

I have mixed feelings about it...I almost asked for one for Christmas, but then thought about how much I use my library card because I can't justify buying the book! My mom loves hers...and it would have been great as I was rereading the Harry Potter series, to not have to cart such large books around. But I just don't know if I'd like it!

Rising Rainbow said...

I have mixed feelings about it as well. I love my books. Haven't asked for a Kindle although can imagine I'll end up with one sometime or another.